SUNY-Geneseo was injury-ravaged last season; can they make a push at a Championship at full strength?
February 17, 2015 by Patrick Stegemoeller in Preview with 0 comments
A cursory look at SUNY-Geneseo’s 2014 season would fit a narrative that has become all too familiar for Metro East college teams. The champ of a one bid region finishes tied for last at Nationals, marking a “good effort” season for a team that didn’t really belong in the same conversation as the best teams in the country. We have all heard that story before.
Peer a bit more carefully, though, and a different one begins to take shape. Last year Snail put together an impressive regular season and a dominant run through regionals to seize the 7th overall seed going into Nationals. During that weekend in Westerville they lost their five games by a combined total of nine points, including two on double game point, and did it all without David Abbott, their 1st team All-Region handler and Ultiworld Breakout Player of the Year for 2014. Abbott broke his wrist playing in an AUDL game the weekend after Regionals, and did not play a single point at Nationals, along with three other starters for Snail who had torn their ACLs.
The absence of Abbott and some crucial knee ligaments sunk Snail at Nationals in 2014, but their return this season marks hope for Geneseo’s 2015 campaign. “Being stuck on the sidelines last year (during Nationals) I felt helpless,” said Abbott in a recent interview. “But it has been a great motivator for me this season. As a team we’ve got some unfinished business to take care of this year, and personally I know I’ve got something to prove.”
- #7 Seed at 2014 D-III Nationals
- 2014 Nationals Finish: T-15th
- #6 in Ultiworld 2015 Power Rankings
- Healthy return of injured players. As mentioned above, one of Snail’s biggest problems at Nationals was the loss of its captain and best player, David Abbott, to an untimely injury. Abbott is back with a vengeance this season, and the experience of being forced to spend Nationals as a spectator has him more focused on success than ever before. After making a full recovery in time to help lead his Rochester area club team Genny Tall Boys to the Select Flight, Abbott is ready to make another leap this season for Snail. In addition to Abbott, Snail will be returning 5 key players who missed Nationals last season, which includes 2013 Metro East All-Freshman and a newly minted captain for Snail, Sam Devine. Getting all of these players back from injury, plus a solid freshman class, will help make up for the loss of Geneseo’s two 2nd Team All-Region seniors who graduated last May.
- Top tier talent. Abbott and fellow 1st Team All-Region Player Matt “Micky” Rybak (the Mitchell Bennett to Abbott’s Will Driscoll) are the best one-two punch in the region. Very few D-III teams have a player capable of shutting down half of Snail’s AUDL duo, and almost none have two. Abbott justifiably gets attention, but Rybak showed his value when he quietly amassed 11 goals and 19 assists in only 5 games at Nationals in 2014.
- One of the most important returners for Geneseo is their coach, Bryan Jones. Ultiworld’s second runner up for Coach of the Year is back and with a full season under his belt coaching Snail, he is now able to fully implement his offensive and defensive schemes. His funky zone looks stymied opponents last season, and Snail will be even more dangerous with time to perfect the tactics he brought to bear in 2014.
- One of Snail’s greatest strengths in 2014 was their continuity from the year before. Almost every player was a returning starter who had an established role from the beginning of the season that they could spend all year perfecting. Snail lost six seniors last season, meaning several players on Snail will need to fill new roles this year. While the talent is certainly there for Geneseo, the players will need to coalesce into new roles in time for the series. Chemistry and experience were great weapons for Snail last year, both will take a step back this season.
- Injury prone. Geneseo is counting on their returning injured players to play big roles. While some, such as Abbott, have already been able to play competitive minutes this fall, several other key players are still rehabbing. ACL tears and other injuries can lead to long, drawn out recoveries that prevent players from getting to their top gear for quite some time. Rushing players back puts them at risk of re-injury and another series spent watching from the sidelines.
Historically, Geneseo has often relied on its best players to make all of the plays and lets its supporting cast to do the dirty work. Going back to the days when Jon Hirschberger (now of Boston Ironside) patrolled the skies for Snail, beating Geneseo started with stopping their best player, and letting the rest of the team fall apart. This was the case in 2013 when Fredonia decapitated Abbott and Snail at Regionals, forcing Geneseo to go back to the drawing board. Spreading the disc around was a point of emphasis for them in 2014, and the success of last season has the team focused on continuing that trend this year.
The disc will still run through Abbott and Rybak, but look for role players like Colin Peartree, Mitch Harris, and Dillion Peterson to get a greater share of the disc and responsibility this season. The team is focused on creating an offense in which players can comfortably play within the system while also leaving enough room for the best players to improvise and take control when the situation calls for it. Abbott and Rybak have been almost unstoppable in the past when they get into give-and-go flow, which Snail uses to suck in opposing defenses before exposing them over the top.
In a particularly inclement 2014 season, Geneseo’s ability to play well in the wind won them a fair share of games. Creative zone looks and an athletic advantage were instrumental in propelling Geneseo to success in 2014, and with Coach Jones at the helm again expect more good things from Snail on windy days.
Finalist. If all of their returning players can stay healthy and gel into their roles on the team, then the sky is the limit for this team. Abbott looks poised to dominate, and there would be no better storybook ending after being forced to the sidelines last season than leading his team to the Championship in his senior year.
Regionals semifinalist. If the Metro East ends up as a single bid region again this year, then no one is safe. However, it’s hard to see Snail falling out of the national picture unless they suffer some devastating injuries. Even if Abbott gets hurt again, they should have the fire power to go deep on Sunday at regionals.